FIR B2B: A New Podcast on B2B Communications

I’m excited to be joining Paul Gillin as this week we launched the podcast FIR B2B as part of the For Immediate Release network run by Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson. You can listen to Episode 1 of FIR B2B here.

In the first episode we discuss a recent McKinsey research report that indicates business leaders – not communicators — need to be taking the lead in social media adoption. We also have a bit of fun discussing a number of facts from ad agency Earnest that produced a collection of facts and figures about B2B marketing. Finally, we talk about the ongoing success of email, and how reports from McKinsey and Experian indicate we should be sending more e-mail.

We hope you enjoy the series and of course Paul and I will be looking for your ideas and thoughts on guests and our commentary.

 

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B2B Communications in a Haiku #B2BHaiku

 

A caption haiku? It is possible to do I need more coffee
A caption haiku?
It is possible to do
I need more coffee

Write a haiku. It sounds easy. It’s not. Here are some of my thoughts on B2B communications in haiku form.

Content marketing now
Pulling together ideas
Make it count for you

 

Do you know your ROI
Sales leads helps drive revenue growth
Build LinkedIn strategy

 

Email marketing
More effective than social?
The “in” box still works

 

A long sales cycle

Focus on relationships

Time will pay returns

 

Social Listening
Track other brands and people
Build understanding

 

A B2B example
Building a community
Go TerraCycle!

 

B2B brands can inspire
Images, thought leadership,
Social media

 

Does B2B need social?
Crises, recruiting, educate
Examples to do

 

Big Data worries
Ask your team the right questions
Focus on your goal

 

 

Go ahead and write your #B2Bhaiku and add it to the comments.

 

What B2B Communicators Can Learn from Bruce Lee

 

This weekend my son and daughter stayed up late with me and we stumbled upon the TV movie, “I Am Bruce Lee.” The three of us were mesmerized by the flow of the show and biography of Lee. It was a great documentary about his life and philosophy and as I watched it there were some great analogies to use for B2B communicators.

Here are a few quotes from Bruce Lee that hopefully make you think a little differently about how you approach your B2B efforts.

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”
Bruce Lee

What type of goals have you set for yourself and your organization and how often are you reviewing them? Are they about sales and lead generation? Or do you focus mostly on getting content right? Do you view your goals as an end point or as a way to build on your progress? In my opinion, both are correct, but you need to have a goal and work toward what you want to achieve. It’s just as important to define goals for a team as much as it is for a major project. My advice is to make the time to write down what it is you want as a result of your work and share that with the people who need to know.

“To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.”
Bruce Lee

In today’s digital world taking risks can be rewarding or punishing. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them, but you need to assess them properly. As things move more quickly and B2B content is driven by more people on the move via mobile devices, you should try to focus on making your message more shareable and assess the risks properly. But at the end of the day are you simply creating things to create them or are you focused on building opportunities? For example, does your brand’s Twitter feed create a community or just push out links?bruce lee

“I will live the way I please and achieve inner harmony and happiness.”

Bruce Lee

 

“Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.”

Bruce Lee

It’s great (and easy) to benchmark against so many other brands today. Keep in mind that your efforts — whether digital or not — need to fit within the brand and culture of your own organization. If you decide to copy or emulate another company and what they are doing try to make it fit with what you are trying to do, otherwise you won’t be fooling anyone but yourself. Here’s a look at the most recent B2B benchmark study from MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute.

“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”
Bruce Lee

“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”

Bruce Lee

 

We saw a lot of changes in 2013 in content marketing, metrics and lead generation, so knowing what you want to achieve in 2014 can be difficult to define sometimes and we already know the landscape will change — from the tools you use to the new competitors. As a leader of your team are your efforts flexible too? If you’re not the leader of the team are you building ideas and selling them internally? One major change coming is the CMO CIO Alignment Imperative that Accenture researched. How are you handling that? Exploring big and small ideas will continue to be important. There are lots of tales of brands that remained inflexible and resisted change, so learn from their lessons and try to build change into your regular routine. If you don’t, your competition will.

“Be happy, but never satisfied.~

Bruce Lee

You should take pride in your work and what you accomplish and be motivated to find new ways to inspire. The B2B landscape can be extremely competitive and the sales cycle very long. With the resources we now have available from blogs, on Twitter, via YouTube and more we can continue to learn and improve on our past performance.

This is my last post for the year and here’s a look back at the most popular posts. Once again, thank you for reading and sharing all of the things you felt were helpful. Have a great Christmas and see you in 2014.

 

A Look Back at 2013

With the continued rise of digital in 2013 some of the themes and posts here reflected what many people were asking: How do I create and manage content? With so much data coming in what matters most? Where should we focus our efforts? What’s next?

With so many changes in resources, data and issues B2B communicators in 2013 needed to constantly be looking for ways to leverage digital.
With so many changes in resources, data and issues B2B communicators in 2013 needed to constantly be looking for ways to leverage digital.

Here’s a look back at the top posts from 2013:

Do B2B Companies Need Social Media?

Craft Work: What’s Your B2B Expertise? 

Can B2B Brands Inspire?

How B2B Brands Can Leverage Events

What’s Ahead? The Changing Role of Communications

A Manifesto for B2B Communicators

When Dealing with Big Data Ask the Right Questions

What Does Twitter’s IPO Mean for B2B Communicators?

Other Voices: An Interview with Ann Handley of MarketingProfs

Thank you again for your continued readership and interest in B2B Voices.

 

 

 

 

Stop Ignoring This Valuable Piece of Content

There has been much ado about content — from curation to evaluation — and the rapid rise of content management is no mistake. Content has become central to so many B2B brands.

When you build your content you need to focus on your boilerplate as well.
When you build your content you need to focus on your boilerplate as well.

But content isn’t just about the heavy lifting pieces of text around thought leadership or trends/issues. It can also come in small but significant pieces of text. Like your company boilerplate. Yes, your boilerplate should be a key part of your content strategy. Why? For two reason.

  1. It tells the story of who you are and what your company does that should be embedded throughout all that you write and communicate about your company.
  2. It’s everywhere (or should be). It’s that one paragraph you produce that gets shared everywhere: your website, brochures, social media, email and over the newswire over and over and over and over.

I’m not going to give you ideas on how to write your boilerplate. If you want that advice you should read these three posts:

How to Write an Effective Boilerplate — Diane Rose

How to Make Your Boilerplate Sizzle — Jeremy Porter

Build Better Press Releases — Stacey Miller

So, when was the last time your read your company’s boilerplate? Maybe now is a good time to read it again.

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read these:

Keeping Your Messages Connected

LinkedIn Showcase Pages Put More Focus on Customers

I’m a long-time believer in using LinkedIn Groups to create communities for B2B brands. In fact, I’ve been using the group pages for more than six years to post content, connect our people with customers and focus on building conversations. During that time, I’ve noticed that not all groups are created equal; some have very good, active dialogues, while others just linger in a one-way discussion.

LinkedIn adds Showcase pages.
LinkedIn adds Showcase pages.

I’ve always believed that LinkedIn is a great platform for targeted, private discussion groups. Making groups private helps to target topics around specific issues, keep out competition and vendors, and allows you to treat these forums like your own focus group.

But LinkedIn’s new Showcase pages now complement the groups, helps to clear up the clutter on company pages, but could ultimately end up competing with – and possibly ending – most company group pages. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as we try to navigate our way through and manage the growing amount of content on LinkedIn.

I’m excited about this latest offering from LinkedIn since it can help narrow the conversations and topics, which ultimately is what a good B2B sales or marketing person needs to do. Here are my four reasons why I like the new Showcase pages:

  1. The administration feature allows multiple stakeholders to own and manage these groups. B2B companies can now provide multiple owners to pages, which makes sense as social media grows in importance. In addition, well-organized B2B companies will leverage product, marketing and communications teams to oversee showcase pages. This continues to showcase the need for B2B companies to better organize and manage content across functional disciplines.
  2. The sponsored post option is a major bonus at targeting customers by region, title, company and industry. LinkedIn continues to win the B2B marketing game as it focuses on connecting buyers to sellers and sellers to buyers better than any other social platform.
  3. As Mashable points out, Showcase pages allow companies to narrow content onto a specific product or offering and target end users. More targeted content should lead to more insights into what people want from your brand and marketing content, and should allow you to better track what you are trying to measure. And the simple “Follow” or “Unfollow” button makes it easy to start/stop seeing the feed. It’s a small feature, but is definitely more easy than joining or un-joining a LinkedIn group, and face it, any way to make the user experience easier is a plus.
  4. While several posts have pointed out here and here that this is a great way for brands to build content, I actually take the view that this is betters news for customers. Which is the point, isn’t it? This move from LinkedIn actually makes it easier for customers to follow the content they actually want from B2B brands. So, yes, it does help companies, but over time the real focus moves toward connecting with customers. And that’s exactly the point LinkedIn was trying to make.

So far I really like what I see in terms of the ease of use, the consistent look with Company Pages, and the focus on having an easy end-user and brand experience. Like any new social iteration, it will take time to figure out how to leverage the pages and make them of use to your customers. Should you do them across every product line? Or just your services? Do you even need them? And how will you build awareness and community around them? These are all questions you should be thinking about in the coming weeks as B2B companies roll out Showcase page.

Now I’m just hoping LinkedIn would bring back its event/calendar feature — I guess I can’t have everything — but there are alternatives.

We continue to get inundated with new technologies and platforms  As a reminder, my golden rule is do a few things and do them well. You will be better served as an organization and a professional by doing so.

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read the following:

Keeping Your Messages Connected

Can B2B Brands Inspire?

CME Group Builds Impact on LinkedIn Using Exclusive Groups

Don’t Overlook the Power of LinkedIn Groups

Why LinkedIn’s Company Pages Now Matter More

How to Think Like a Content Manager

There was a great post I read last week from Gary Vaynerchuk. You can read it in its entirety here, but if you don’t have the time the headline says it all: You’re All Media Companies. Content and your brand are one. And guess what? More brands are investing more in content.

If you didn’t read what Armano had to say about content archetypes. He points out that there are three drivers changing how we spend our time and attention, and because of these drivers he outlines five ways we need to think about content. It’s a fantastic post.

And as this joint study by MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute point out:

B2B marketers are becoming confident in creating content, both owned and supported by the brand, enlisting everything from videos, books, articles, how-to guides and infographics.

So what are you doing? As the year comes to an end this may be a good time to rethink how you will take on 2014. I’ve written my thoughts about content management before but wanted to reemphasize some thoughts on how to think more like a content manager.

Content is everywhere. How are you managing it?
Content is everywhere. How are you managing it?
Internal collaboration is critical; build a team. Your organization is too vast and too complex to do it on your own. Use content management to open doors internally to each department and build relationships. People internally want their story told and will work with you so this is your opportunity. In addition, build out a team of experts with different talents. Our team includes individuals with unique talents for analytics,  graphics, web, mobile and business continuity. Find your content superheroes. You will benefit tremendously as an organization by ensuring you have different people represented from different departments.
Leverage partners and vendors. Third parties tell your story better than anyone else. Are they not a part of your strategy? Connect with them and leverage them. Remember, you are helping them as well.
Repetition is not just okay, but required. In fact, read what Forbes has discovered — more than half of its monthly traffic is to content that is older than 30 days. The same is likely happening with your content. How will you reuse your content? Think about ways that you can do this; from news and trends stories to building ongoing campaigns around key business issues.
Know your content influencers (inside and out). You need to know who matters most to building your content (internal) and who can help spread it (external). This will take time, so invest the time.
Benchmark against other industries for ideas. Knowing what your competition is doing is important, but don’t be afraid to look elsewhere at other industries for ideas as to what works and what doesn’t. There are an abundance of case studies online so take the time to learn from others.
Measure your success (and failure). There’s not enough that can be said about data and measuring influence. Make it a part of your daily habit. And make sure you are asking the right questions.
Content is becoming more strategic to advertising, brand management, communications and marketing and often cross the borders of all four disciplines. It is a topic you will continue to hear about as more companies think like media companies to distribute messaging and influence key stakeholders. Having a plan of action for your content, by department, function and organization, is becoming more important and vital not just to the success of communications but to the success of the business.